24 June 2021

    Nafisa Akabor

    Cars, connectivity and mobility

    There are four major trends that have emerged in the automotive landscape that has been identified as: Automation, Connectivity, Electrification and Shared mobility. Collectively it is referred to by the acronym ACES.

    According to McKinsey’s research, ACES has attracted investments in nearly $330bn since 2010 across 2000+ mobility companies, with over $80bn alone since the beginning of 2019.

    We take a quick look into each segment in the South African landscape.


    There are five levels of automation in self-driving cars. Level 0 is regarded as no automation; level 1 has driver assistance features like cruise control or lane assist; and level 2 has occasional self-driving features such as controlling speed or lane position. From level 3-5, the car gets more self-driving capabilities and less human reliance, but we’re nowhere near it on South African roads, aside from legalities.

    Considering the changing landscape, the Department of Transport is planning to introduce new regulations for self-driving cars in SA. It believes that autonomous vehicles could solve problems like congestion, road safety, emissions and social inclusion.


    Connected vehicles offer embedded SIM cards tied to certain data rich features including live traffic, web search or emergency phone calls. Linked smartphone apps also provide information like status checks, tyre pressure, service intervals, etc. Some apps allow for remote features like powering the vehicle, climate control and locking or unlocking.

    Cars from across all segments now offer smartphone integration be it through proprietary apps or simply via Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Volvo’s first EV, the XC 40 Recharge is also the first car to run natively on Google with Assistant and Maps built in. Both Android and iOS have announced digital car key support for the near future.


    Although South Africa’s electric vehicle (EV) journey started with the Nissan Leaf in 2013, it’s still early days while we wait for government to adjust import duties. Current EVs on sale include the BMW i3, Jaguar I-Pace, Mini Cooper SE and Porsche Taycan. Volvo’s XC 40 Recharge is open for orders but arrives in August.

    We’re expecting the Audi e-tron, Mercedes-Benz EQC, VW ID.4 and BMW iX hopefully by the end of 2022, after the pandemic caused chaos with global supply chains. According to the IEA’s Global EV Outlook 2021 report, South Africa is ranked fifth globally in the ratio of public EV chargers to electric vehicles for 2020.

    Shared Mobility

    Due to South Africa’s lack of proper public transportation, we’ve had shared mobility services like Uber and Bolt (formerly Taxify) operate here for years. And more recently in the pandemic, there’s been a shift in consumer behaviour where private cars are being used less and instead opting for vehicle subscription service models.

    FlexClub launched a consumer offering in December 2020 and has subsequently grown by over 250% per month. FlexClub offers cars for rent to Uber drivers, and now with its consumer offering, is potentially changing the landscape. This could mean fewer cars on the road, less emissions, fewer parking spaces, innovative insurance offerings, etc.

    To hear more about the future of connected cars, listen to the Tech Talk podcast espisode with Dr Joost Kessels, Division Head of Product Engineering at Volkwagen South Africa here. 


    Nafisa Akabor